Into the Realm with David Aaron Clark

DSC09278David Aaron Clark, who died November 28 at 49, was a full-time fringe thinker who dabbled in porn directing.

Clark passed away on Saturday afternoon from a pulmonary embolism. He had checked into L.A.’s Good Samaritan Hospital the day before. Outside his door were two great and longtime friends, Evil Angel general manager Christian Mann and performer Aiden Starr. Starr, like Clark a New Jersey native, was as often Clark’s chauffeur and costume mistress on his movies.

None of the three expected Clark’s hospital visit would end the way it did.

“He got himself checked out for H1N1 on Monday (November 23),” said Starr. “He was complaining of shortness of breath. Tuesday he found out he didn’t have H1N1, but he wondered if he might just have the regular flu.”

Throughout the week, friends and colleagues received e-mails and phone calls from Clark. Publicist Wayne Hentai said the two were putting together plans for an Asian-themed website.

“He was going to write about his sets and the Asian girls and I was going to write about the Asian sex news I came across,” Hentai said.

But on Friday, November 27, Clark’s breathing was especially labored. He called Starr from his apartment on Wilshire Blvd. in Koreatown.

“He sounded fine,” Starr said, “but he said he would need a ride to the hospital. When I got to his place he didn’t look good at all. We got one of his decorative canes so he could walk down the hall, but he couldn’t make it. I called the paramedics.”

At this time, Starr said both of them were concerned but neither thought the situation was dire. It wasn’t out of the question that Clark, an active but overweight diabetic, might come up short of breath every now and then.

“When we arrived at the hospital, the doctors and nurses – who were all very nice – said that it was good he got there when he did,” Starr said.

Clark had congestive heart failure due to a blod clot doctors said had traveled up his leg and lodged in his pulmonary artery. He was hooked up to an IV and fed blood thinner to deal with the clot.

“And we sat on his bed and talked,” Starr said. “He gave me specific instructions about the books I should bring, a William Gibson book and Alan Moore’s ‘From Hell’ graphic novel, his iPod, the dock, the remote control, his phone charger, his pillow with the red pillow case…”

Clark, who didn’t have health insurance, was worried about how he would pay for his hospitalization, but Starr assured him that she would work out a payment plan with the hospital.

“And he didn’t want to call anyone about it – save for Christian at his job – because he’d just tell them when he got out,” Starr said.

In the ICU, Starr said, they watched a Latina woman being strapped down and both voiced identical perverse thoughts.

“Like I said,” Starr said, “he was talking like this was no big deal.”

Starr stayed with Clark a few more hours and said she’d return the next day. When she did on Saturday afternoon, she found Clark moaning loudly into his oxygen mask, calling for a doctor.

“So I stood in the middle of the ICU and made sure a doctor came,” she said. Then she was asked to leave because his room was so small. That was the last time she saw Clark alive.

“They called a Code Blue as soon as I was out of the ICU,” Starr said. “Some other people in the waiting room assumed the Code was for their relatives, but I told them it was probably for (Clark). I called Christian and told him to come earlier. When he showed up, it had been two hours since the Code was called, and we were both heading back into the ICU when I met a nurse coming the other way.

“She asked me if I was (Aiden) and I said Yes, and she said ‘I’m sorry.’

“At the time I didn’t know what she was saying sorry for, but then she said, ‘He passed away.'”

Clark’s bald head, stoutness, preference for black attire, and stentorian delivery were often trumped by his whimsy and glee, which would show up whether he was (brilliantly) pointing out someone else’s foibles on an adult messageboard or giddily anticipating the next Wong Kar Wai film or Sci Fi Channel show.

While he’d directed porn since 1998 (and had won an AVN Best Screenplay award for Wicked’s “Euphoria” and was up for another one for this year’s “Pure”), “DAC” had always been a writer, starting out in his native Bergen County at local papers and then, in their early heyday, at adult publications Genesis and Screw, where he said of publisher Al Goldstein, “He just about made reprehensible charming.”

He also performed live BDSM scenes at clubs like Mother in New York in the mid-1990s, where one of his shows involved getting a pentagram carved on his skin by a dominatrix. He then moved to San Francisco, where he worked for years on that city’s late, lamented Spectator alternative newspaper.

While DAC missed the Golden Age of porn as an active participant in its creation, he was an intellectual force in porn’s Internet dissemination, helping to make porn a nutritious part of a delicious cultural buffet. In this endeavor he was often lonely but never alone, and made friends of kinky thinkers around the world as well as plenty of enemies here at home, with whom he’d often spar online.

DACRIPS2He remains one of the few pornographers who were able to make the transition from writing to directing without giving up on either. This might have something to do with his early days in print publications.

Clark had early success with porn screenplays and helped make the Asian niche popular with titles like “Asia Noir,” “Asian Mouth Club,” and “Tales from the Oriental Luv Motel!”. Each was dark and thoughtful and utterly unlike any other Asian porn, often projecting onto the stars Clark’s own philosophies or otherwise introducing scenes with Buddhist quotes. It was very personal pornography and Clark grew a small but loyal fanbase who would follow him from studio to studio.

It is relevant to note that Clark was not rich, well-off, or even comfortable until fairly recently, and it is one of the reasons that his death is so devastating that it seemed like he was finding a groove again. A big man, he had lost weight and was taking better care of his nutrition and diabetes. A bequest from his mother, who died last year, had helped him pay some bills and allowed him to splurge on laser vision correction. He had a stable job authoring DVDs at Evil Angel for the past several months and, as he hadn’t had steady work for years before, it seemed to all his friends that things were looking up.

And then there was “Pure,” which will be Clark’s final film. A porn adaptation of “In the Realm of the Senses,” “Pure” was the quintessence of DAC’s love of all things Asian, combining porn and horror. Rather than chasing directing gigs for months on end, Clark told me earlier this year, he could take the time with “Pure” that he wanted and not have to depend on his director’s fee for his rent. “Pure” recently earned several AVN nominations, including Best Director.

“His regret was that he wasn’t going to be able to prepare notes for [Evil Angel owner] John Stagliano about his next project because he was in the hospital. He was very happy about the nominations for ‘Pure’, and he had a bunch of plans,” Starr said.

Clark is survived by his stepfather, of whom he was fond, and several close friends in the adult industry as well as followers of his writing from his New York and San Francisco days, not to mention the megabytes of text floating round in the comments sections of other people’s websites, which he left with gusto and no regard for wordcount.

Fans of Clark’s directing would notice many of the same names above and below the line, as DAC enjoyed working with the same crew as much as possible.

Clark was often a guest at my home and a frequent visitor to my office, which is right around the corner from where he used to live. I still have his copy of the “Millennium” box set (tellingly, DAC’s last e-mail to me, sent a few days before he died, were his regrets that he couldn’t come to a party. 🙁 was the entirety of the subject line).

I don’t like this recent trend of people I admire dying when things seem to be looking up, but I bet DAC would relish the chance to come back as a vengeful Japanese ghost.

Starr said that Clark wanted to “go out like David Carradine.”

“He really would have liked to have gone out on a hooker,” she said.

Clark is being cremated, and memorial services on two coasts are in the works.

Previously on Porn Valley Observed: Pornhounds; Sucking cocks in Hell – porn stars discuss horror movies; DAC’s week of robots and blood; On the set of ‘Asia Noir 6’; No Man’s Land, White Man’s Burden; Is this ass haunted by Cylons?; Legend of the Oriental Luv Motel!; Richard de Montfort’s Last Sitting

4 thoughts on “Into the Realm with David Aaron Clark

  1. Pingback: » David Aaron Clark Remembered Blue Blood Magazine Gothic Punk Photos

  2. Great write-up. (So that’s where that MILLENIUM box set went!) I worked with Dave at SCREW and knew him in SF and LA. His wry observation was that I convinced him to move to San Francisco, and as revenge, he got me to move to LA. I was his cameraman and editor in his early SF fetish days and later when he entered porn. His tribute video can be seen at http://www.charlespinion.com. Best, Charles Pinion

  3. Pingback: Gram’s Dirty Dozen Of 2009: Let’s Be Frank | Fleshbot

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